Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

  • Medical Author: Michael J. Peterson, MD, PhD
  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Quick GuideGeneralized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

What is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)?

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by multiple and/or nonspecific worries. The fear associated with GAD interferes with the person's ability to sleep, think, or function in some other way. Symptoms of anxiety are even described in the word itself. Specifically, the word anxiety comes from the Latin word anxietas, which means to choke or upset. The symptoms therefore include emotional or behavioral symptoms as well as ways of thinking that are responses to feeling as if one is in danger.

How common is generalized anxiety disorder?

GAD is quite common. In fact, it is the most common anxiety disorder seen by most primary-care doctors. Up to 9% of people will develop GAD over the course of their lifetime. That translates to millions of GAD sufferers. During any given year in the U.S., up to 0.9% of adolescents and 2.9% of adults will have GAD. The prevalence of GAD peaks in middle age and declines in later years. Women are about twice as likely to develop GAD as men. Individuals from developed countries are more likely to report symptoms of GAD than those from non-developed countries.

Are other mental health diagnoses associated with generalized anxiety disorder?

When people are diagnosed with GAD, they commonly have (or had) other anxiety disorders. Individuals with GAD very commonly will also have major depressive episodes (unipolar depression; "clinical depression") during their life. Symptoms of GAD are very common in other disorders, including PTSD, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, and psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia). However, the diagnosis of GAD would not be given if the worry and anxiety are better explained by another diagnosis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/7/2015

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